Monday, December 7, 2009

"Moral Victory": says Paresh Barua, Commander in Chief, ULFA’s Armed Wing on 6th of December, 2009!!! Ha!



About a month ago Arabinda Rajkhowa, Chairman of the United Liberation Front of Assam was arrested by the helpful Government of Bangladesh in Dacca. On the 4th of December, 2009, he, his family and some of his followers were handed over at 03.30 hrs at Dawki Land Customs Station in Khasi Hills, Meghalaya. Dawki is on the border with Bangladesh.

A minor controversy has errupted whether he was detained, arrested or he voluntarily surrendered. Does it really matter?

What matters is that a dreaded terrorist, who while insisting on strenuous jungle life and brutal urban terrorism for his followers, himself hid in plush comfort in Dacca since 1997 or so, is now behind bars.

The ULFA Chairman’s Arabinda Rajkhowa told the journalists at the CJM’s Court in Guwahati on the 5th of December that he had been arrested and had not surrendered. Paresh Barua, Chief, ULFA’s rag tag armed wing, said that that comment was a moral victory for ULFA!

ULFA preaching morality? This outfit that has cost thousands of innocent and misguided lives is now so toothless that it can only talk about moral victories, which are meaningless. Let them have a myriad of these.

Did they think about the morality of the many murders they committed in their arrogance?

In early February, 1991 between Hansara and Jhangi, before Jorhat, Assam, I saw from the Gypsy that I was driving about 20 meters ahead two men on a scooter shoot a cyclist as he was coming up from a house on the left had side of the road. It happened so quickly that first I thought that the cyclist had collided with the scooterists. I stopped to help the fallen cyclist. I was shocked to find that he had been shot in the chest, and was dead. By that time his mother had come up and there was an emotional scene too sad to describe. They were poor people and her son was from a neighbourhood social work organization that had refused to support the ULFA in its violent programme. I tried to chase the scooterists down but they had disappeared down one of the several leafy side lanes that dot the AT Road. This hit and run was typical of the tactics of the ULFA.


There were hundreds of such pointless executions. The ones that caused wide spread revulsion and intense disgust were the bomb blast on Independence Day at Dhemaji in 2005 that killed 13 children, and the pointless killing of a young and innocent Andhra engineer (son of very poor parents) near Naharkatia, in Upper Assam in 1995. Did such brutal acts make them feel powerful or even popular? They certainly made the ULFA filthy rich because these killings made people take their threats to kill seriously and then pay up.
The many unpardonable and unprovoked excesses of the uniformed forces was the direct result that only hammered innocent civilians most.

This then is the organization which now that it is beaten and on the run finds it convenient to talk of moral victories! Apart from still mouthing the discredited concept of independence for Assam, which no one but a few die hard supporters, who are nothing but extortionists, believe in now.

ULFA was however partly responsible for the prosperity that one sees in Assam. That is undoubtedly true. Roads, Industrial Estates, Multi billion projects, Bridges, Schools, Colleges, Industrial infrastructure, Railway lines and Medical colleges.
Ranghar, Sibsagar- where ULFA started on the 7th of April, 1977

Before the 7th of April, 1979, all Assam was a sorry under developed sight. No electrictity, bare minimum of non Assamese managed commercial activity, which was exploitative in nature, and very slow, almost reluctant, progress. From the 7th of April, the day Arabinda Rajkhowa and several others swore at Ranghar, Sibsagar, to fight for a better Assam, conditions began to change.


The attention that ULFA got the NE has caused wide spread employment and improvement for many Assamese. I was in the North East from 1985 till 1991 and was witness to much violence and repression and also slightly faster progress. Infact for a while I was an admirer of the ULFA. After their misdeeds and galloping greed became a matter of deliberate policy I abhorred them. They were no longer Knights in Shining Armour, but run of the mill gangsters. The Assam of those years had much to protest about, but not in their chosen way.

For the Assamese the genteel, tender and fond appellation of "larka log" (our boys) of the earlier years truend into disgusted contempt. And yet they have the inordinate gall to pretend to speak on behalf of the people of Assam!

The lighthouse that the ULFA promised to be through the 1980s became a flickering candle for their rank and file. That too was extinguished for them from 1997 -1999 when their leaders deserted them for foreign comforts. After that it became an organization known exclusively for its expertise in extortion and barbaric cruelty.

“Today, the dirty machinations of the colonial Indian Government have been defeated in the hands of the freedom-loving peolle of Assam. This will only enable us to march ahead into the future.” Paresh Barua said yesterday. He has been blowing away millions in Bangladesh for more than two decades. He has not been to Assam. Otherwise he would not have made such a stupid statement.









... and peace has returned to Assam.




















Thursday, October 15, 2009

Needless heartburn in India over a reported dam in Southern Tibet, BUT...


....what's the harm, especially when our Know Alls did not even know about the dam over the Indus built in 2004!!





The first picture is of a dam over the Indus built by the Chinese. It is a dam that exists. The first picture is taken from Google Earth. The second is taken by me of Demchog. The big buildings are part of an optimistic market built by the Chinese in their part of Demchog. The electricity produced by that dam has come till Tashigong, about 15 kms beyond this Demchog.









Unlike the so called dam the Indian Express front paged in an article in its 15th October, 2009 edition that China is supposed to be building over the Brahmaputra in the Nanshan Prefecture of Tibet, this one over the Indus exits. Yet, there have been many worried analyses of this yet-to-be-confirmed construction, and our . Funny isn't it? The Chinese have denied it, and these reports are at best speculative.



This dam can not hurt India as 80% of the waters of the Mighty Brahmaputra are picked up after it enters India.



The Mighty Brahmaputra as it makes an 'S' Bend when it enters India below Spur Top is a smallish river. After that it picks up considerable waters from the Yangsang Chu at Jidu, the Siyom and the Sipi at Yembung and several others before it leaves the hills at Passighat. Around this place it more than doubles its size with the waters from the Lohit and the Dibong. After that its right bank gets the Himalayan rivers like the massive Subansisiri, the wide Kamala, the Rong, the Kameng (Bharoli), Aie, the Saralbhanga and about forty others. Its south bank too gets waters from copious rivers like the Burhi Dihing, Namdang, Dhansiri, Kalang, Kopili, Digaru, Bajbala and thirty others. These make the Mighty Brahmaputra the size that it is. Not Chinese waters.


BUT, what is more worrisome is that since 2004 China had built a run-of-the-river largely earthen dam across the Indus. It is only 100 kms or so away from the India-China border at Demchog (Ladakh), and no one has as yet mentioned it even!



It provides water for civic and agricultural needs in the Ngari Khorsum province of Western Tibet. It gives electricty for 24 hrs and round the year for the fast expanding and developed towns of Ngari and Shiquanhe (Ali in Tibetan). The former is just 15 kms west of the dam and the latter is 25 kms NNE of it.




Even though the Indus at this point and even after it has entered India at Demchog is a fledgling river there is no excuse for our spies and their latest devices not to have detected that a dam was being built more than 5 years ago. The Indus is even more of a small stream, than the Brahmaputra when it enters India, where this dam has been built. It is before its confluence with the Gargunsa Chu- the river that comes past Gartok, the ancient trading centre of Western Tibet and now a thriving electrified busy town.



Does not say much for the observation capacity of the intelligent people trained to be on the look out for just such a development, amongst others! What is worrying is not that the dam has been built, for what is wrong in building a run-of-the-river dam, but that our snoops were not able to discover that it was being built and later that it had been built! And our usually alert and alrmist journalists too are ignorant about it! This dam has subsequently been mentioned in a book called "The Empires of the Silk Road".



The picture above is of Chang la or Dumchulle La, which is since October 1962 with China. The International Border runs along the ridge. The Chinese have got territory well inside India. More than 20 kms of it here. At the base of the spur to the right is a large Chinese market selling Chinese goods. The annual turnover of this market is reportedly more than Rs. 100 crores. The customers are the Indian Changpas- the nomadic shepherds who hop from one ribo (camp) to another with their flocks of pashm goats. The markets in Nyoma, Leh etc aree filled with what they buy here. The considerate shopkeepers sell goods on credit and do not mind waiting for months for money to be paid. This market is a source of information. And, many of the Changpas who come here are supposed to bring back information to their handlers in Dungti, Loma Bend and Kiari etc. In October 2003 when this picture was taken by me I had heard reprots from some Changpas that a dam was being built over the Indus. I am sure that such reports must have been received by the intelligence agencies too. Yet, we were completely ignorant of its construction. And even now are. Dumchulle is on the right bank of the Indus and not far from the recently revived airport at Fukche, near Koyul.


That is why the status quo of this picture above has not troubled any one since October 1962!

This is of the Indus near Umlung, 20 kms before Demchog, in Ladakh. The other bank of the Indus is in Chinese hands. The International Border ought to be the Thag La pass 20 kms further and seen here. It is on the southern side of the watershed and yet instead of taking back this singularly unacceptable occupation all that we can think of is- Aksai Chin (about 45,000 sq kms), which is as impossible for us to acquire as it is for the Chinese to even dream about getting Arunachal. There are more than 5000 sq kms of Ladakh, on the southern side of the watershed, that is occupied by the Chinese since October 1962, and this vast almost continuous swath is not even being mentioned at negotiations.





Romesh Bhattacharji

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Afghanistan, the United Nations and Peter Galbraith



Every one who can read has heard of Afghanistan and the United Nations.
How many have heard of Peter Galbraith? I had not till September, 2009.
He was till a week or so ago the United Nations' Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan.
What I did not know was that he was the only gutsy and principled official that the UN had. Now he has gone. Made to leave within six months of joining at Kabul. It only proves that the UN will remain a shadowy organisation lurking around the fringes of power and supporting status quo, when change is what is needed.




Especially in Afghanistan. The recent monumental fraud in Afghanistan, blessed by the UN as an election, if consecrated will make Afghanistan uncontrollable. This is what Peter Galbraith had protested about. He had said that most of the votes cast for President Karzai were fake. He also accused Norwegian Kai Eide, his senior, of failing to act upon evidence of electoral fraud.
Mr Eide responded by saying he had the full backing of the international community and the US administration, which does not mean that Mr. Eide, the International Community or the US Administration are right. Infact the last two have a history of being wrong as far as Afghanistan is concerned.


Everyone in Afghanistan knows that ballot papers in nearly every polling booth were stuffed with fake votes for Karzai. Most election observers knew about it. And yet neither the International community nor the UN uttered a squeak, till Peter Galbraith legitimised all the rumours. Well done.

Nothing less could be expected of the son of John Kenneth Galbraith. I wish him well, for with such principles he will have many opponents.
If Karzai returns there will be a "slim possibility of peace and the probability of a longer, wider, more dangerous war."- quoting Richard Tanter — out of context. Romesh Bhattacharji

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Afghan Narcotics Tangle- Old sins cast long shadows






















































Many seasoned heads from across the world have been banging against Afghanistan’s hard narcotics wall. Only these heads have suffered.

Not the Taleban, who continue to profit from opium production. As they had done when they were supported by the US in the 90s and till that craven appreciation was given to them for supposedly banning opium production in early 2001. After 9/11 the Taleban were in disgrace and dumped. Not all of them. Old ties still bound the US policy makers to some of the Taleban and Mujahideen. These rogue elements were accommodated in the new administration headed by Karzai, an ex-Taleban himself. That is the reason why the too optimistic clamour for victory has now been replaced by a resigned acceptance of the stench of collusion. That is why narcotics, which funds the Taleban, is here to stay.
Despite UNODC publishing inaccurate, self advancing, self deluding and self congratulatory reports giving the impression that all is well and under control. This year they have shown a 20% decline in opium poppy production, which they attribute to their efforts. It is not so. It is because of bad weather that Afghanistan produced less opium this year. Their methodology, which has always been vague, is not given in the 2009 Afghanistan Report. The UNODC experts are silent about error margins too.

They and others are repeating the mistakes of 2001 when they allowed oil politics (the UNODC Chief Mr. Pino Arlachi had most unusually met American oil executives on several occasions in 200 and 2001) to give a certificate of merit to the Taleban for not growing opium. This was the Occidental driven campaign to give a clean chit to the Taleban so that a pipeline could bring gas cheaply from Tukmenistan, through Western Afghanistan, to Pakistan and then to the recipient countries. This was the inspiration behind the sly move to give the Taleban a clean chit. Otherwise, it would have been impossible for these countries to have even the thought of dealing with the repugnant Taleban accepted by their citizens. They had forgotten at that time that there were other objectionable things about the horrid Taleban like women bashing, mutilating and murder.

However, its Narcotics that I will stick to. Today’s narcs headache is because of the earlier shoddy conciliatory policies followed by the Western powers that encouraged this explosion of opium production in that blighted country.

During the end years of the maligned Najibullah Government in Afghanistan only 10,000 hectares were under opium poppy cultivation in 1986. This means an anticipated production of about 300 tons at most as at that time the yield per hectare was not very high. Then, as Najibullah’s hold weakened and that of the US and Pakistan fed, armed and financed Mujahideen and the Taleban became stronger opium production increased. In 1987 it was 25,000 hectares. In 1988 it was 32,000 and in 1989 by when Najibullah had been overthrown it was 34,300. The next year it was 41,300 and it continued to shoot up till 2000 when it was 82,171 hectares. By this time Afghanistan was infested with the Taleban and crawling with their foreign financiers and supporters. In this disgraceful period of collusion the US had coaxed the DEA to reduce their staff in Pakistan by 80% or so leaving only a skeleton of about ten persons. The DEA was the only department in the US Government capable of doing its job sincerely, and thus it was threat. It was the US policy at that time to make opium pay for the war against Najibullah, and afterwards to reward the Taleban by allowing it to keep its growing profits.

By now the public opinion in the US was hardening against the bestial and barbarous Taleban. It would have been revolted at any truck with them. Something had to be done to remake their image.

Taleban delegations were entertained in America repeatedly. They were convinced by bribery to at least say that they were against opium production. So lo and behold in 2001 only 7606 hectares were said to have been cultivated with opium poppy. But, is it true? Thousands of journalists, experts, diplomats, soldiers and know-alls willingly suspended their disbelief and accepted this preposterous assertion certified by a UN led team of eight nations (including Pakistan) that visited one area in Nangarhar and another elsewhere in March of 2001.

Every one had collectively ignored the hard reality that in 2001 an extremely severe drought had damaged not only opium but also other crops as well in the entire region stretching from Afghanistan through Pakistan and India till Myanmar and Thailand. Opium production in all these areas had been severely hurt.

During 2000 and 2001 Indian satellites had been surveying the opium fields in Afghanistan. There is a 30% margin of error in their observations but yet they reveal a contradictory picture. According to these pictures opium had been sown but in areas where there was very severe drought the crop had been irretrievably damaged. In some parts of Nangarhar (Achin for instance) the crop had not suffered too much. However, the UN team had been taken to the NE of Nangarhar.

The eight satellite pictures reproduced above show opium poppy fields in 200 and 2001. It shows the existence (+ or – error of 30% notwithstanding) of larger tracts of opium poppy than had been accepted earlier. The yellow blobs show opium cultivation. In case of Zamindwar there was more opium produced in 2001- the year that the clean chit was given to the Taleban- than in 2000!






These pictures, taken by Indian satellites in 2000 & 2001, will have many skeptics. That will be good. Nothing like a logical discussion.
My idea that the 2001 "ban" was an eye wash is strengthened by the tables given below. The first one shows a tremendous decline in opium production for 2001. The years before and after it have high production. It is IMPOSSIBLE for a ban, even if it is by the cruel Taleban, to be imposed so quickly over such a vast territory with such little communication. In India illicit opium cultivation has been banned for 60 years and yet, despite excellent communications and efficient enforcement agencies, it has been impossible to show more than marginal success. How could the Taleban, in one year and ONLY for that ONE year, achieve a reduction by about 30%!!! And in the years following 2001 with so many arms and men even a 5% reduction in illicit cultivation is thought to be marvellous. Misquoting the Stoic poet Cleanthes' Hymn to Zeus, I can only say " Master of the bright thunderbolt, save (these UN, NATO, UK and US) men from painful ignorance." And yet the UN team of eight countries that was taken only to a corner of Nangarhar in March 2001 verified from that one corner that opium cultivation in all of Afghanistan had come down drastically. If it had it was because of the severe draught. Not because of the Taleban.

In the subsequent seizure tables I was surprised to find that there was no corresponding decrease of opiates at all. Why not? The reason is simple. Opium had been produced despite the so called Taleban ban and certified by a desperate West, but it was less because of the drought.


(All the statistics in this paper have been got from UNDCP/UNODC sources only)





Old sins cast long shadows:

The US had bent over backwards to appease the Mujahideen first and then the Taleban. After 9/11 though the US and NATO troops occupied Kabul and some areas their victory has never been complete. One reason is that some of the Taleban and Mujahideen, whom they had supported before 9/11, are still their trusted aides. They are in every form of governance in Afghanistan , which is verily a theatre of the absurd. How can these advisers, monkeys’ paws etc suddenly turn over a new leaf and abide by new rules? Impossible. If you sup with the Devil once he will not let you go. Such people will never report the truth or give the correct advice. If the inputs are all wrong it will be impossible to take the right decisions. And that is what is happening. On top of that there is enormous corruption everywhere, especially amongst the very same people who have led charmed lives from the 90s just because they were close to Pakistani and US officials. The present administration in Afghanistan is busy, as far as Narcotics is concerned, in trying to live with the criminals of the past. It can not disown them for then many scandals will emerge. That is why it is safe to spend more than a billion US $ every year and line many private pockets and groan and moan, helplessly and sanctimoniously about expanding opium production. They will not look at this problem objectively and rationally. There is at least one alternative, which could spell hope, but that has been deliberately reviled. I refer to the Poppy for Medicine proposal which suggests legalizing opium cultivation with the help of the village councils themselves.

Unless a clean break with the past has been made and earlier errors accepted it will be impossible to work solve the Narcotics tangle that Afghanistan is mired in.

Romesh Bhattacharji
rbhattoo@gmail.com

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Assam Tea Estates' elite wallowing in luxury want free security!
















Consider this:

There are more than a thousand tea estates in Assam. Much less than half the labour working there is permanent. If they made all permanent they would have to give them many labour rights which would cut into their immense profits.

At the time of Independence there were about 800 tea estates and each one had at least a medical dispensary if not a hospital and most had schools. Today less than half of these tea estates have hospitals and fewer have schools.

At the other end the Managers and Asstt. Managers and other officials live a comfortable life in air conditioned surroundings. And to protect their creature comforts they have guards. These guards became necessary about two decades ago when there were a few abductions of tea estate officials. One of them was killed and the rest released after paying large ransoms.

For the past eight years there has been little trouble from insurgents. What trouble there is is because of restive labour demanding better pay and working conditions and even permanence.

Yesterday, I read a report in The Hindu (pg. 16 of the New Delhi Edition of 29th September, 2009) . It quoted one Mr. Aditya Khaitan, Chairman of the Indian Tea Association as demanding that the Government pay fot the tea estates' security! Can anything be more ridiculous? And alarming. This same worthy has bragged that they give a lot of facilities to the tea garden workers and these work out to be about Rs. 7/- (about US 20 cents) per day per head. Their generosity is astonishing. Omitting to mention that more than half the labour, without whom they would not be able to do produce tea at all, is temporary and thus not entitled to these so called benefits.

They have asked for the Government of India to subsidise their security saying cheekily that this has made the tea more expensive by Rs.1.50 (US 4 cents) per kg! These bleeding hearts are shedding crocodile tears about tea being expensive for the common man. Forgetting that it is their heartless pursuit for huge profits that is responsible for most of the price increases for this brew adored by the ordinary Indian as well as the elite.

I remember after a Manmohan Singh Budget in the late 80s when Central Excise Duty was removed from tea there were expensive ads palced in all the newspapers by the tea companies saying that tea will be cheaper now. It was. But for less than a month. After that the prices continued their insidious crawl ever upwards.

And for this shameless profiteering Big Business wants their security to be free? They want the Government of India to pay about US $ 3.5 mln every year for their guards. or else tea will be more expensive. Yet another excuse to raise prices.

Recession or no rescession Indians are not going to give up tea at all. They can keep charging more and more for it and people here will keep drinking it neverthless. They develop a convenient social conscience only when they have to pay taxes or get concessions otherwise they treat the tea labour as slaves.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Afghan (The Opium Republic!) Elections: Stolen





Sifting the hype from the truth... Millions voted says the Press, but some Afghans say not even 20% did!
These two pictures - taken at a Border Post on the Iranian border, a little south of Zaranj in Nimroz Province 3 years ago- show soldiers being paid their salaries. This was for the benefit of a visiting team, of which I was a part. Notice the soldier leaning rakishly against that van in the background and sneering at the drama? This was just a sham to show how honestly the soldiers were paid their salaries.
This corrupt farce is repeated in every aspect of the poor Afghan peoples' lives.
Especially and most noticeably in the General Elections that were held on the 20th of August, 2009.
The world press has praised the exercise. The Voice of America somehow managed to see this: "Afghans Brave Violence to Vote for President
By Steve Herman Kabul20 August 2009
A smiling voter holds his election ID card as he waits to vote in Kabul, 20 Aug 2009Millions of Afghans braved threats of Taliban attacks on polling stations and retaliation against voters to go to the polls Thursday. The legitimacy of the election is beholden to an acceptable turnout and the reported level of wholesale vote-buying, phantom voters and other acts of electoral corruption. Voting is taking place amid scattered explosions in the capital and other parts of the country.
"
From my few friends in Afghanistan I have managed to piece together a different story. A story of deceit, propaganda, lies and more lies. A falsehood that has been white washed into a justification of the US policy in Afghanistan. It has not fooled the Afghans certainly.
In south Afghanistan, especially Kandahar, Helmand and Nimroz less than 20% people actually voted. The Taliban had thundered vengeance if any one did. Yet ballot boxes are filled with votes to show that more than 50% did. Very few women turned up (the Taleban had pointedly threatened women) and yet many women seemed to have voted. Can any one, but the interested parties, believe this exercise?
In North Afghanistan the elections did approach some sort of fairness.
In Kabul the European Union election observers were not visible till 16.00 hrs. How could they then approve this election? In Spin Boldak, the Afghan town on the Kandahar-Quetta (Pakistan) Border 115% have apparently voted. Some election agent apparently got carried away! Yesterday, the 30th of August, came the news that there were fake votes stuffed in more than 550 polling booths.
Where is the International Press that was so vigilant and righteously indignant about the fraud in the Iran elections. This fraud is apparently going to be 100 times worse and yet there is not a questioning squeak from the many journalists covering the Afghan Elections.
Karzai is going to win the elections. Evey body can be rest assured, but by fixing it there is going to be no peace in Afghanistan at all. Abdullah Abdullah will be unacceptable to the Americans as he leans towards the Iranians, and thus is persona non grata. Just for show there may be an another round which will be won by Karzai. A known and corrupt evil is better than an unknown angel.
The Hazara Ramza Bashardost, who is conducting his Honesty and Anti-Corruption campaign from a tent has managed to get about 10% of the votes. He is a popular figure for his brave stand for principles, and especially after he refused to see Holbrooke, the US Negotiator, inside the US Embassy as latter cheekily expected him to do. Bashardost aksed Holbrooke to meet him in his tent. People like him provide only a comic interlude to the dreadful prospect of continuance of evil that is the fate of the Afghan peoples.
(3rd September, 2009) : Today's Indian Express reports another not surprising incident of fake voting. In Shorabak a district in Kandahar no one was allowed to vote as they were supporting Abdullah Abdullah. Yet, 23,900 ballots were sent to Kabul for counting. From all over Afghanistan reports like this are coming. Read more about it here: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/kandahar-tribal-leaders-accuse-karzai-camp-of-forging-votes/510804/
This is gangsterism plain and simple. And it will lead to violence cruel and horrible.
More reports about brazen fraud, cheating and deception are pouring in. Even the usually craven BBC has been forced to report like this http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8239500.stm .
But, whoever made these election rules (under the supervision of the US & NATO) made them very sly and unjust. They fixed a short time limit to file complaints. In India there is no time limit. Once that clever date is past no one can question the result. How very convenient to perpetuate a lie, a hoax. That is why Karzai's men kept stuffing the ballot boxes. This would not have happened without the benign nod of the US & NATO troops gallant-only-to-Karzai Government! This is not democracy. It is a cynical, dishonest dictatorship that is arrogant because of the support it gets from its puppeteers.
Poor Afghanistan. Its destined to suffer. A corrupt Government can not fight the wicked Taliban.
Opium Wars I & II were fought because the British wanted to forcibly smuggle opium into China. Opium War III is pay back time. The first two wars lasted from 1839 to 1842 and 1856 to 1860. III has already outlasted both of them put together. If elections continue to be rigged it will last decades, and Afghanistan will be known as The Opium Republic.
Romesh Bhattacharji












Millions




Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Chongkham Sanjit's murder in Imphal,Manipur: Uniformed Atrocities

On the 23rd of July, 2009 an ex-PLA youth, who had been living a normal life for some time was brutally murdered in broad daylight, in cold blood, in Khwairamband bazar in Imphal by Manipur policemen. Another in th elong line of murders committed by uniformed personnel.

This was not the first such incident and surely it will not be the last. The para military and the army have to fill their quota of insurgents eliminated and they will continue to do so in similar cowardly manner. But next time they will ensure that there are no cameras present. They will revert to killing insurgents, ex-insurgents, and innocents stealthily. The New Delhi magazine Tehelka had published pictures of the murder in its 1st August issue. Only then there was large scale revulsion, which included even our Prime Minister.

However, after the dust and the din is settled it will be the uniform that will continue to have free use of bullets. No one in the Government would like to disturb the status quo where the forces can do what ever they want under the AFSPA. There is nothing to separate them in actions from the insurgents, who are just as blood thirsty. However, it is not expected for a disciplined force to behave in brutal and callous disregard of laws and human rights.

Ever since 1956 at least such brutalities perpetrated by the armed forces have been common. In 1956 Dr. Haralu, an 82 year old popular Naga doctor, was walking near the Kohima Cemetery, Nagaland with his 5 year old grand daughter when he was needlessly shot and killed by an Army patrol. No suitable action was taken as it was felt that it would demoralise the forces. No such thought was given to the people who were nauseated by this brainless and wicked performance. Since then there have been innumerable such incidents of rape and carnage and no salutary action has been taken against any armed forces offender.


Nandita Haksar, the fearless human rights lawyer, has detailed many such atrocities in her excellent book "Naga File".
Illusion of perfect peace:
Picture of fields taken from Maibamlokpaching>>In Novmber 1987 while destroying cannabis fields in Ukhrul district of Manipur I met a lady constable from Manipur Armed Police, who were helping us in these operations. She had a closely cropped hair style, wore sun glasses and always appeared very upset. With great difficulty a heart rending story was blurted out. She was from a village near Kamjong, which is to the east of Ukhrul and not the Khamjong on way to Pallel, and was a close relative of a prominent insurgent. Her village used to be raided frequently by the Army and Assam Rifles. One night when she was just sixteen years old the soldiers raped her, killed her fatehr and permanently maimed one of her brothers. For a while she had thoughts of revenge, but her family compelled her to escape to Imphal and persuaded her to hide as a police woman.
I have written about this episode in my book on the North East called "Lands of Early Dawn."
There are innumerable other such incidents. Will the Prime Minsiter open up all of them? Can he guarrantee that these shocking brutalities will not be repeated? Is he at all interested in making more than a few sympathetic noises? Or is he hoping that public memory is short and they will forget such incidents? I can assure him that no one has forgotten any such incident. And there are many.

Five or six years or so ago there was that shooting incident in and outside the Medical College at Imphal. On a January morning an impatient CRPF soldier wanted to relieve himself but all the toilets were full. In impatient, indisciplined and typical anger of a uniformed man he kicked open a door. The youth inside retaliated by beating him up. The result: there was indiscriminate firing that killed several including an Arunachali student from the medical college, who had just come back from home leave, and was ringing up his parents to inform them that he had arrived safely. He was shot in the PCO!

In 2000, a little beyond Imphal Airport, 10 people standing at a bus stop were killed in an unprovoked brutal firing by Assam Rifles. One of those killed was an 18-year-old National Child Bravery Award winner. This is the notorious incident that led the brave lady Irom Sharmila to undertake a fast that still continues today.
Many people think that it is in the self propagating interest of the armed forces to have such incidents. For, there will be protests and some mayhem which will require to be repressed severely. Thus these goons in uniforms will not allow peace to prevail for more than a few weeks, before another human rights violation leads to a cycle of protests and suppression and demands for more funds for the forces! Just as it is happening in Kashmir, where the atrocities are even worse and don't get noticed as much. No soldier or bureaucrat or politician has the courage to stop these brutalities, which are one of the reasons that fuel insurgency.

These are only a few of the incidents. There are many more in other parts of the North East. Each has left an indelible blot on people's minds. Each such incident only feeds the insurgency, even though people of the Norht East are disgusted with the insurgents as well. Remember that heart rending sight of Metei ladies protesting naked outside the Kangla fort in the autumn of 2004? It revolted every one- except soldiers, bureaucrats and politicians. They just devised new comfort arguments to justify whatever they had been doing and will perpetrate in the future. That is why that why the Manipur Police had 74 gallantry awards out of the 212 that were distributed all over India on Independence Day this year. (Indian Express, 24th of August, 2009)

For the past few years the people of Manipur, by and large, were turning against the insurgents. Their fight would have been easier had there been no atrocities by the forces. As long as there are atrocities, it will be difficult to stop insurgency. Will there be no end? Is there no leader principled enough to put a stop to this? Till then this beautiful land will continue to hear agonising screams. Chongkham will not be the last.


The same nightmarish experiences are being heaped often in Kashmir too.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Motorcylcing across the Himalaya- its been done for more than three decades


































Every year countless gangs on mobikes go tearing through the Himalaya, the Zanskar and sometimes touching the Trans Himalaya, without being any wiser about the giant mountain systems they pierce through on roads that have been built with so much sacrifice and labour.

They create records like Delhi to Khardung La and back in 82 hours! With digital cameras having made photography easy for morons even, beautiful photographs are immediately put on countless web sites.









Continuing the fetish for publicity larger and larger groups go ‘raiding’(an obnoxious disrespectful term) the Himalaya. Every year a TV documentary or two also crops up. All have this in common- many interviews exaggerating the difficulties met and very little of the magnificent views of the mountains, lakes and passes.

On the 1st of August (?) I saw a TV programme on News X of some motoryclists talking of the “incredible” feats that they had done. One of them speaking to the camera from Kunzum la was saying that the roads were rough and sometimes there were no roads!! This statement was simply wrong. This is a 34 years old road where there is a daily bus service for more than two decades. There is no need to pad stories with such exaggerations. This happens only when little knowledge of the mountains is inversely proportionate to one’s ego. With these rushing in and out they miss out on many stunning topographical features.

I list a few only so that they can be noticed by some interested ‘marauders’ later on.

At Rhotang Pass the Pir Panjal range, that rises from Domel near Muzaffrabad in Pakistan Kashmir, is crossed. As soon as that is done one sees the spectacular collection of a myriad Himalayan peaks known collectively as the Chandra Bhagas and Mulkilas and a few more like the Gepang Goh. The mostly tarred road goes around them from –using an aviator’s lingo- from 6 O’Clock till 1 O’Clock.

Around Kalpa, Phuti Runi (it is a centuries old word meaning Split in the Great Rock, which is precisely the point where the Himalaya are pierced!) - which is by the Chandra River near Baltal below Kunzum La and much before Gramphoo, Baralacha la, and Zoji la is the Great Himlayan Crest crossed.


The Srinagar – Leh road has a few diversions to the north that lead to magnificence that wrench one’s heart.
Near Minimarg comes in a beautiful road from Kishenganga valley.
From Kargil a road goes to the troublesome border village of Batalik, on the India-Pakistan Line of Control (LOC) and then turns east along the Indus to Khaltse.

After the striking gompa of Mulbek and before Bod Kharbu a good road branches off to Achinathang, with a dramatically placed gompa, on the Indus.

On the breath taking Kargil – Padam route the good road after Parkachik goes round the Nun Kun massif from 6 O’Clock to 2 O’Clock till Pense La, after which it follows the long Durung Drung glacier for about 3 kms.

The Ladakh Range or Kailash Range, which starts at Kiris village in Pakistan where the Shyok meets the Indus and ends 15 kms after Mt. Kailash in Tibet, crosses the Indus in Ladakh at what is now known as Loma Bend. The bridge here is at the confluence of the Hanle with the Indus, which becomes an important river from this point.

If one follows the right bank road of the Indus to Tsaka village, past the Yak farm, and then to Tchaga La and Chushul one is technically in the Trans Himalaya.

At Miarsmik La (beyond Phobrang in the north of Pangong Tso)to Pamzal on the Changchenmo river is the Trans Himalaya crossed.


Across the Khardung La in Ladakh Range is Panamik on the Nubra river.
Just before this village is a soda ash plain called Pulthang.
From it juts out a grey black jumble of rocks about a km long and half as wide. Climb to the top and there is a volcanic crater with a small lake in it. The lake is called Lobame tso. Below and beyond can be seen the Nubra in its wide bed.

The second range of mountains above the eastern shores of the Pangong Tso are now, since 1962, unfortunately with China. Ani la, which is where the Line of Actual Control (LAC) is now, can be seen from all along the western shore of the beautiful lake.

After crossing Chang la towards Tankse, and before Durbug, can be seen the modest beginning of the awesome Karakoram Range. For a closer look branch off from Durbug to Shyok village above the BIG V turn of the Shyok river. From within this V starts the famous Karakoram Range which has 6 of the fourteen 8 thousand metres high peaks in the world.

At Tankse, near the Government Primary School, are two huge laminatdd boulders with Petroglyphs or rock engravings from BC and the 9th and 10th centuries. They are in hieroglyphics, Persian and Cyriac.

From Man, Merak and Kakstet villages can be seen the strange helmet shaped island of Tabo Topo on the eastern shore. The 150 kms long Pangong Range, which starts at Agham on the Shyok before Khalsar in Nubra Valley, ends about 30 kms after the Pangong Tso turns east towards Khurnak Fort soon after Kakstet village. The International Boundary between India and China once was at Khurnak Fort.

The LAC is east of and very close to the Chushul road. After Kakstet as the road turns towards Chushul, not only is the Pangong Range crossed, but Srijap on the East bank of P Tso and Yula directly south but on the west bank, are close by. They are now with China, but in October 1962, when they were snatched from India, were witness to scenes of heroic unequal battles fought between ill clad and inadequately armed Indian soldiers with the vastly superior equipped Chinese hordes.

This kind of knowledge can be gleaned only if one tarries to talk to people along the way, and not rush about with chests puffed and mouths stuffed. Take weeks off instead of days and revel in the beauty that you have had the good fortune to see.

Over the years I have talked to many such hurrying motorcyclists and was shocked to find how uniformly ignorant they were about the mountains and valleys they rush through. Infact, they were not even conscious of their ignorance.

And, if they think that these routes are difficult now, consider what they were in the 1970s when my friend Adil Tyabji and I traversed them by motorcycles many times, and in the 80s when my friend Bill Aitken did it all alone repeatedly. I have added photographs {http://bameduniya.tripod.com/motorcycling_across_the_himalaya_3_moren_decades_ago/} from that age. In Ocotber 1977 when we crossed Kunzum La, which only had a mile stone, the road after Kaza to Lossar was still being filled in and Khardung La is unrecognisable. In those days after we left Srinagar or Manali or Shimla we could not even get a clutch wire!

So don’t brag many have walked where you have had the good fortune to drive these days. And even that is being done from 35 years ago. I have done both ages ago. Walked, climbed and motorcycled.
I hope I don't sound pompous?




The pictures at the end are of the Khardung La (18,380'). The first two were taken 34 years and 35 years ago.



































  No thrills or fears there now.
As these ladies sunning themselves after an over crowded bus stops atop the Khardung la show!







Shah Rukh Khan, ex President Abdul Kalam & ex President Bil Clinton and biased US security checks

News: Last week India's most famous current actor was detained for two hours at US's NEWARK airport and grilled by ignorant US Security.

Back to the past: Three years ago or so US ex-President Bill Clinton had come to Delhi. He did not depalne from his aircraft as he did not want to go through the usual line meant for others. HE had to have special treatment. So, four limos from the US Embassy in Delhi were sent to pick him up from the airport. Now, when the Indian Security chaps wanted to frisk these US gentlemen and check their cars, they did not allow it. For 45 minutes or so this staolemate continued till the Indian Foreign Ministry oficials decided to be good hosts and allowed the cars to pick up that ex-President.
Cut to the present: Since April there have been two reported incidents of India's best being harrassed by thoughtless US Security. First it was our ex-President Abdul Kalam and now it is Shah Rukh Khan, a face recognised all over the world, who were pointlessly checked by US security. The excuse being trotted out by helpful channels in India is that this is routine security. Routine Security ? Bah. Tell that to the Marines. Its routine inefficiency and racial bias. Only they are credulous enough to believe it. What happened to their much vaunted PROFILING SYSTEM? By this so called scientific electonic system they are supposed to eliminate multiple harrassment, select targets, save time and give quick clearances.
What happened in these two case? Either their profiling sytem did not or does not work? Or, they make it a point to target well known Asians just to show how thorough and unbiased they are in their security checks. They do not subject every passenger to such checks. Why does it happen to the more important ones routinely and especially? Apart from having an inefficient system , just like their so called Smart Bombs that routinely kill civilians, the US Security picks on Asian VIPs as scapegoats to create an impression of rigid and inflexible security. TV Channels like CNN-IBN, which though Indian are puppets for the American CNN, wasted hours on this topic being more emotional and loud than sensible. Not one of them, not even the usually sensible NDTV, tried to understand what this profiling system is nor did they mention that incident of one of their ex-Presidents at Delhi Airport.

Afterword: Profiling System collects data about millions of risky individuals all over the world and stores their bio datas into a multi accessible electronic data system. It has usual information like home address, date of birth, occupation, past and history of crimes and odd behavious + photographs, wherever possible. The Americans consider their system to be so perfect that they have the cheek to run courses all over the world on profiling! And yet when it comes to our VIPs it suddenly collapses and reducing the US officials to making third rate excuses like miss handled baggage was the reason for detaining Shah Rukh Khan. In addition, an efficient profiling system helps to separate the good from the bad and the suspicious. What lind of a security system is this that regularly gets the wrong ones?

Another Afterword: Only when American nobs are searched at Asian Airports as our Cabinet Minister Ambika Soni threatened will these pompous and arrogant searches stop.

Romesh Bhattacharji